The Brits: You've got to hand it to them. The Empire may be long gone, but they still reign supreme when it comes to effortlessly exuding mordant wit. For anyone who savors the acerbic literary likes of Evelyn Waugh or the Amises, father and son, Helen Simpson is just the ticket.
Four years after Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tim Weiner published Legacy of Ashes, his detailed history of the CIA, he received a call from a lawyer in Washington, D.C.
"He said, 'I've just gotten my hands on a Freedom of Information Act request that's 26 years old for [FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover's intelligence files. Would you like them?' " Weiner tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And after a stunned silence, I said, 'Yes, yes.' "
Actress Viola Davis has been nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of the maid Aibileen in the film The Help, set in 1960s Mississippi. But not everyone has applauded the film, which has been criticized for its portrayal of black domestic servants in the civil rights era.
Songwriter Bret McKenzie makes up one half of the New Zealand comedy rock duo Flight of the Conchords. He also wrote five of the songs in the new Muppet movie, including "Man or Muppet," one of two songs nominated for Best Original Song at this year's Academy Awards.
You'd think that, by now, the news that Americans are spoiling their children would be as attention-getting as the fabled headline, "dog bites man," but, apparently, we never weary of hearing about how bad we're doing as parents. Last year, it was the Tiger Mom; this year, a hot new book called Bringing Up Bebe, tells us that the French have us beat by an indifferent shrug when it comes to the art of raising independent kids.
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:
The flashy Denzel Washington thriller Safe House will probably gross in a few hours what Steven Soderbergh's Haywire has made in several weeks, but if you like action you ought to catch both back to back. Soderbergh's film is a reaction to the jangled, high-impact style of Safe House and its ilk.
Poet Donald Hall spends much of his time in his blue armchair, looking at the landscape out his window. The 83-year-old former poet laureate has lived for years on the same New Hampshire farm that his grandparents used to own, and still writes in the room he slept in as a child.